English Samgha/Poesia/Traduzioni

Tuning in to the Frequencies of Life: The Poetry of Fabiano Alborghetti

Fraancisco GoyaTranslations by Marco Sonzogni*

Fabiano Alborghetti’s Directory of the Vulnerable (Il registro dei fragili. Bellinzona: Edizioni Casagrande, 2009, 75pp) is unusual in terms of style and content. With allusions to Dante and Pound, Alborghetti tells a story in 43 cantos. The almost hypnotic rhythm of these understated yet pressing texts lulls the reader into following an apparently uneventful account of ordinary lives and events. But at the heart of this exploration lies an unexpected and tragic incident. By showing the reactions of a credible cross-section of contemporary society, Alborghetti seeks not universality but to stand in the shoes of his subjects. Thus Directory of the Vulnerable is just that: a book about vulnerable human beings whose feelings and experiences are watched and recorded. What makes the book particularly interesting – and challenging to translate – is Alborghetti’s use of rhythm: meters and cadences that contribute to conveying the modus operandi of the people in this story. I would like to thank Fabiano Alborghetti for his encouragement and contribution; and Bob Lowe, for his inspired and inspiring suggestions. I would also like to thank the editors of La Libellua, where earlier versions of cantos 1-10 were published (n. 4, 2012, pp. 123-135). [Marco Sonzogni]

*****
Fabiano Alborghetti
poems 
from “Directory of the Vulnerable” (“Registro dei fragili”)

Canto 1

Gli bastavano i ritagli le riviste che comprava in settimana per sapere
della vita e certe foto conservava per copiarne il buon vestire
la postura che allo specchio ripeteva in precisione:

il tre quarti dello sguardo, il sorriso di chi vince la partita…

Canto 1

A weeks’ worth of magazine clippings kept him up to date
with life and he kept some of the pictures so that he could choose his fine clothes
and the expressions he practised so precisely in the mirror:

the three-quarter pose, the champion’s smile…

Canto 12

Sulla spiaggia col costume con le forme in evidenza
il colore della pelle e la pelle tutta tesa si piaceva, era bella
come prima di sposare, sono bella ripeteva

e lo dice anche l’amica mentre insieme all’estetista:
quelle foto da sfogliare ripetevano la forma, rimandavano la prova
ch’era bella da morire e certi segni non vedeva

non i fianchi un po’ pesanti maturati in gravidanza, non la faccia
tutta tesa di chi accumula stanchezza, non le mani
consumate dai lavori dai bucati

era bella e si piaceva, si piaceva
ma lontana non presente in questo tempo
dove tutto ti rapina, dove il tempo è sottomesso

alle cose della casa. Là in albergo
era vita da signora: con la cena preparata con la stanza fatta bene
la piscina con le sdraio con il bar e l’ombrellone

col servizio di qualcuno che ti serve in ogni cosa
basta solo domandare e si esaudisce il desiderio.
Riponeva poi le foto nel cassetto del salotto

ritornava in questo mondo dove niente è come pare…

Canto 12

On the beach with a swimsuit to show off her figure,
her tan and her taut skin, she was pleased with herself, she was beautiful
before her marriage, I am beautiful she said again to herself,

and her girl friend says so too while they are at the beautician’s together:
a series of photos confirmed how her figure used to be, repeated the proof
that she used to be drop-dead gorgeous but she hadn’t noticed

the way her thighs sagged a bit after pregnancy,
or how her face was lined by weariness, or how her hands
were spoiled by housework and washing

she was beautiful and loved the way she looked, loved it,
but far away not here not now
where everything falls apart, where time

goes in housework. Back there at the hotel
that was the life of a lady; dining à la carte, and the room service
the pool with the deck chairs the bar and the sunshades

with someone at your service for anything
you only have to ask and there it is.
Then she put the photos back in the drawer

she came back to this world where nothing is the way it seems…

Canto 13

Divagava con lo sguardo nel mimare l’attenzione
le domeniche di fede, il vestito tra gli scranni
moglie e figlio giusto accanto

se devoti o ammaestrati non sapeva. Interrogando
il volto in croce interrogava il come il quando
e se qualcosa per preghiera gli venisse ritornato

e quanti occhi può contare chi dall’alto vede e veglia
e vede tutti per davvero? C’è premura di salvezza offerta in cielo?
Questa è vita da canile sussurrava non sentito:

siamo in mano alla pietà, ringraziamo dei frammenti
che pensiamo siano ascolto. Cosa resta della fame non saziata?
Imparare a comportare è la questione:

nel bisogno ognuno un credo, un estrarre un amuleto
che risveglia a giorni alterni un potere d’intervento.
Son diverso ripeteva a bassa voce, son diverso

e guardava gli esegeti di quel Cristo appeso in croce
reso quota per martirio: si chiedeva e se non basta?
Basta credere nell’uno si diceva calcolando

o più efficace l’occasione, tutto il caso degli opposti?

Canto 13

He let his gaze wander while seeming attentive
on those Sundays of worship, the best clothes in the pews
his wife and son right beside him

uncaring if they were pious or well brought-up. Questioning
the face on the crucifix, he asked when and how
he asked if prayer did anything in return

and how many eyes could he count, he watching awake from up there
and did he really see them all? And did he care about salvation offered in heaven?
It’s a dog’s life he muttered under his breath:

we depend on piety, we are grateful for any crumbs
that we believe have been heard. What about our insatiable hunger?
You have to learn how to behave:

when in need, each has his own credo, pulls out an amulet
which invokes half of the time some power of intervention.
I am different he repeated in an undertone, I am different

and he looked at the worshippers of that Christ up there on the cross
torn by martyrdom: he asked himself, what if that is not enough?
Is it enough to believe in a universal being he said calculating

or to believe in chance, the whole debate about opposites?

Canto 17

Stare attenti ad ogni gesto
cancellare la memoria al cellulare
era questo che premeva poco prima di rientrare

poco prima di rimettere le chiavi nel portone
risalire per le scale
ritornare col sorriso alla recita serale

con la cena, le notizie delle otto da seguire alla tivù
con i piatti già riempiti e mezza cena da finire
ritornare col sorriso, un accenno per un gesto

che veniva rifiutato….Si cenava con il film
gli occhi alti per lo schermo che aiutava a superare
almeno il tempo del contatto

delle forme messe accanto
a cibarsi d’altra forma, d’alimento e niente altro.
Lava i denti del bambino gli diceva a denti stretti

che sia a letto per le nove…

Canto 17

Be careful with every gesture
clear the mobile phone’s memory
that’s the most important before going in

just before inserting the keys in the front door
climbing the stairs
putting on the smile for the evening act

with dinner, the eight o’clock news to come on the telly
the plates filled already and the meal half over
returning with a smile, a hint of a gesture

rejected at once… They ate through the film
eyes looking up at the screen which did help
overcome the time in contact

of shapes side by side
eating another shape, food and nothing else.
Brush the child’s teeth she said to him through clenched teeth

he must be in bed by nine o’clock…

Canto 18

Altre sere era diverso, accadeva che il silenzio fosse rotto
dalle grida, dalle cose manovrate come fossero appendice
e si rompeva quel qualcosa

si rompevano i bicchieri mentre altro proveniva
dal livore che dell’odio era adiacente
che dell’odio aveva forma

come il fiato che si espelle dentro l’aria di dicembre
e altro fiato appena dopo
mentre il bimbo non dormiva, ad occhi fissi rimaneva

con l’ascolto e la paura e non basta neanche l’orso
non bastavano i robot a difendere lo spazio: messi in circolo a vegliare
messi intorno alle lenzuola

non distanti dalle mani…

Canto 18

On other evenings it was different, it happened that the silence was broken
by cries, by a trail of things shifted around
and that something broke apart

that the glasses smashed while something else rose
out of resentment bordering on hatred
and which was like hate

like the way you breathe out in the cold of December
and another breath just after
while the child couldn’t sleep, and stayed, his eyes staring,

listening scared and his teddy bear wasn’t enough,
and his robots weren’t enough to protect his space; on guard set in a circle
set around his bed

just out of reach…

Canto 19

Poi la spesa si contava controllando lo scontrino, controllando
che un errore non venisse addebitato:
la cassiera ci sa fare, batte cose non comprate

e chi paga sono quelli che non hanno l’attenzione
io lo so, io te lo dico che poi passa a ritirare, mette in tasca l’eccedenza
passa in mezzo agli scaffali con la lista delle cose

torna a casa con le borse delle cose che ho pagato.
Lo scontrino controllava fermo fisso a lato cassa
ricontava ogni battuta, lo scontrino in ogni voce con un occhio

alla cassiera che sapeva menzognera.
La guardava di sottecchi con lo sguardo inquisitore, le diceva
a forza d’occhi io lo so che tu mi fotti e controllava anche due volte

poi finito se ne andava, appagato di giustizia che sapeva tutelare…

Canto 19

Next the bill for the shopping gets checked,
checked that nothing’s been charged in error;
the check-out operator is up to it, ringing up items you haven’t bought

people who don’t pay attention, pay for it
I know all about it, I’m telling you she makes on the deal, she pockets the excess
she goes round the shelves with a list of things

she takes home bags of stuff that I’ve paid for.
He stands fixed checking the bill by the cash register
rechecking each item, every line with an eye

on the operator that he knew to be a cheat.
He watched out of the corner of his eye, he told
her by his expression I’m on to your conning me and he checked twice more

then finished at last he went off satisfied that justice had been done.

Canto 20

Certe volte giù al mercato con le mani messe in fila
innalzava il capo eletto, il vero affare che con l’euro si comprava
e non importa se il tessuto, non importa

se il colore è solo roba da cinesi
ciò che importa è che accostato altro stile posso fare: è firmato
si diceva ripetendo il nome oscuro all’etichetta

e comprava con la furia ne comprava ancora sette
di colori e tagli avversi che poi in casa li sistemo
si diceva ripetendo e domenica li indosso, la domenica al passeggio

dalla piazza lungo il corso
con gli occhiali da velina come ha visto alla tivù
con il panta con le trame che ricorda lo stilista e la borsa del natale

quella vera da mostrare con orgoglio e noncuranza. Tutto insieme
era perfetto era emblema di quel gusto che denota un certo stile
lei la moda l’ha imparata, lei la moda la conosce

e camminava con il figlio messo accanto, si fermava
alle vetrine si specchiava ammirandone il riflesso
e più perfetta del servizio da rivista che ha sbirciato al parrucchiere

si guardava mentre il figlio insofferente già tirava
per andare, proseguire o almeno camminare non restare
fermo al sole senza che la mamma guardi che son bravo ripeteva:

posso andare giù al campetto che m’aspettano, gli amici?

Canto 20

Some times at the market, hand over hand,
she picked up the selected goods, the good stuff she bought with her Euros
and it doesn’t matter if the fabric, it doesn’t matter

if the colour is shoddy Chinese
what matters is that using it I can create a different style: it’s got a brand name
she said to herself repeating the unknown name on the label

and she bought eagerly she bought seven versions
in different colours and sizes that I’ll set out at home
she said to herself again and Sunday I’ll wear them on the Sunday walk

from the square and going up the avenue
with the starlet’s sunglasses like she had seen on the telly
and her trousers with the exclusive pattern and a genuine designer shopping bag

one you could show off with nonchalance and pride. The whole ensemble
was perfect was the emblem of the taste which produced a certain style
she has learnt fashion, she knows fashion

and she stepped out with her son by her, she paused
by shop windows and looked at her admiring self in the reflection
and even better than the magazine photo she had glanced at in the hairdresser’s

she kept on looking while her impatient son pulled at her
to move on, to continue or at least to walk and not hang about
standing in the sun and mummy not noticing how good I’ve been and he asked again:

can I go to the football ground, my friends are waiting for me?

Certe cose vanno fatte per trovare il giusto spazio
e serviva i piatti pronti ferma in mezzo alla cucina
con la luce innaturale della lampada a soffitto:

come fosse quella vita un qualcosa passeggero…

Canto 37

Some things have to be done to make enough room
and she got the plates ready and set in the middle of the kitchen
under the artificial light of the lamp in the ceiling

as if this life were something fleeting…

_________________________

Marco Sonzogni*Marco Sonzogni (1971) lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He holds degrees from the University of Pavia (Almo Collegio Borromeo), University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Auckland. A widely published academic, he is an award-winning editor, poet and literary translator. He is a Senior Lecturer in Italian with the School of Languages and Cultures at Victoria University of Wellington, where is also the Director of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation. His literary translation projects include Swiss-Italian poets (Oliver Scharpf, Alberto Nessi, Pietro De Marchi, Fabiano Alborghetti, Giorgio Orelli), New Zealand poets, and the collected poems of Seamus Heaney (Meridiano).

Fabiano Alborghetti*Fabiano Alborghetti (1970) lives in Canton Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. Besides numerous limited editions and pamphlets (the most recent, Supernova, by L’arcolaio, 2011), he has published collections of his verse: Verso Buda (LietoColle, 2004), L’opposta riva (ibid., 2006), Registro dei fragili, 43 Canti (Edizioni Casagrande, 2009), L’opposta riva, dieci anni dopo (Edizioni La Vita Felice, 2013) and, in translation, Registre des faibles (translated by Thierry Gillyboeuf; Editions d’en bas, Lausanne, 2012) and Directory of the Vulnerable (translated by Marco Sonzogni; Guernica Editions, Toronto, 2014). His poems have appeared in journals and anthologies in over ten languages. As a promoter of poetry, he has published literary criticism in journals as well as online. He founded literary reviews and has designed literary features, events and programmes for the radio, for prisons, schools and hospitals. He is the Swiss artistic director for the festival PoesiaPresente. Sponsored by the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, and by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, he has represented Switzerland and the Italian language at literary festivals worldwide.  www.fabianoalborghetti.ch

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